Insurers dominate Australia’s Favourite Ads, but Cadbury is capturing hearts and minds

Terri Hall
By Terri Hall | 18 September 2023
Terri Hall.

Terri Hall, Managing Partner, TRA Sydney

Advertising awards are coveted by agencies and clients alike, but what about viewers, those on the receiving end of advertising?

There is wide recognition in the industry that we must earn, grab, or otherwise win the attention of people whose lives do not revolve around advertising awards. The argument is that award winning ads are the ones that will win in the attention stakes too.

While the industry has been looking inward, TRA has been looking outward to find out what Australians think. We asked people what their current favourite ads were*.

There was an overarching favourite brand campaign, but before we get to that, there is a whole category that is currently winning in the likeability and memorability stakes. Among Australians three of the top ten favourite ads are from insurance companies, plus when people mention Woolworth advertising it is also often their insurance ads they describe.

By comparison, this is a different story from New Zealand’s top ten favourite ads which are dominated by utilities and banks. There are three utility companies in the top ten and three banks, making up between them 6 out of the top ten.  No banks made the cut in Australia nor any utility companies. So, what’s going on with insurance in Australia?


The Australian insurance market is fiercely competitive which is a sure-fire way to motivate marketing teams to gain competitive edge through brand. The category is not a big spender. In 2022 insurance was only 9th in Nielsen’s top 20 spenders ($218 million compared to over a billion for top spenders, Retail).The three insurers in the top ten have all achieved cut through with the affective use of humour.

The NMRA ‘Until then’ ad was not just mentioned but the action was usually described, making it both memorable and remarkable. AAMI’s ‘Bargain regret’ also got talked about with people mentioning the characters as well as the situation. Humour has a part to play in both campaigns, telling a story that delivers a wry smile.

Budget Direct has perhaps the most extreme of the executions through the ‘Blown Away’ campaign, yet most mentions were just of the brand name not the execution. In January this year Jonathan Kerr, chief growth officer at Budget Direct told Adnews: "In a year where it’s likely that Aussies will be looking for the best possible value from their insurer, we wanted to remind everyone that we remain Australia’s most award-winning insurer.” Brand recognition is what they were looking for; and in this survey, it is what they got.

The top spot for favourite ad by a long way was Cadbury. Cadbury has a history of winning awards at Cannes. The Gorilla campaign won on 2008 and this year the Shah Rukh Khan-My-Ad won the Grand Prix overall creativity award. Though different ads are running in Australia, the work was a clear winner with twice as many people citing Cadbury as the next placed brand.

It was not a single ad but the campaign that made it a winner. A father leaving his chocolate for his daughter and the ‘boy on the bus’ were the two executions that sprang to mind for people. When people described these ads they used emotional words – kind, sweet, loving, touching. Whereas Cadbury will be pleased to hear that their strategy is working, it is also surely a reflection of life at the moment. It’s been a tough few years with Covid lock downs, now that’s over the next challenges are upon us from the economy to climate threats. A small act of generosity is tugging the heart strings and embedding the Cadbury name in people’s minds.

Aldi made the top three favourite ads. The success for this campaign is that people tended to mention ‘Shop Aldi First’ suggesting that the execution is grabbing attention and then landing the message. KFC and McDonalds appear in the top ten as does Specsavers.



























Budget Direct






The red elephant in the room of course is Qantas. Like the Cadbury stories, the ad with the son returning home for his mother’s 60th birthday touched people’s hearts. But what does Qantas’s reputational woes do to the good work achieved by the marketers responsible for the brand? The ACCC investigation of the sale of tickets on cancelled flights, coming on the back of complaints about poor service (ACCC receives more complaints about Qantas than about any other business), high fares, blocking of competitors, high profits and low pay rises for staff, must be doing significant damage to the brand’s reputation. It certainly did for the CEO, who has had to resign.

It's a hard call to invest in a heart-warming ad when the brand’s behaviour is cold hearted. But can they afford to go quiet? It takes consistency to build a strong brand and when Qantas moves beyond this unsavoury phase it will need a brand that can make a compelling emotional connection to help repair the damage.

The challenging question is do Qantas carry on regardless, reinforcing the long heritage of Qantas brand advertising or do they create advertising that signals a reboot?

The other big questions are:  Where are the big spenders in this list? Where are the banks and the utility companies that fare so well across the Tasman? Other than Aldi, where are the high spending retailers?

No one can say that insurers do well because the category is interesting per se. These are uncertain times, nearly 50% of Australians are feeling a very or high level of uncertainty, and that brings emotions to the fore. Advertisers that are grabbing emotional triggers and especially lightened with humour will get better cut through and bang for their buck. The winners in this are the brands using these tools well.

*TRA in partnership with Dynata conducted a nationally representative survey of 1000. Fieldwork took place in August 2023.

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